Number Withheld

Yesterday I received four calls from a blocked number. This has been going on for weeks now.

I received them, but I didn’t accept them. Nor will I, no matter how often the dastards call. Like many others, I won’t answer blocked numbers. The era of friendly, unsuspicious telephone-obedience is over, and good riddance to it. Telemarketers, stalkers, creditors and odious prank-calling radio DJs have brought the age of telecommunications innocence to a shameful, paranoid end, like a bankrupt businessman’s relationship with first-class airport lounges.

These days, making a call with your number blocked is like wearing a balaclava to a speed dating event. It’s like covering someone’s eyes from behind, yelling “Guess who?” but refusing to take your hands off. It’s like going to a job interview with one of those black rectangles from old-style “identities concealed” news reports pasted over your upper face (which would actually be totally cool, now that I think of it).

You may well be experiencing similar harassment yourself; I know of two other confirmed cases (and we’re all on the same network, for whatever that’s worth). One guy, Dave, actually answered recently, and got thirty seconds of silence before he hung up. But still that infuriating impersonal buzz keeps coming.

It’s gotta be a call centre. If a reasoning human being was behind this, and they really wanted to get through, surely they’d have the cop-on to change the “send number” setting on their mobile, or fire off a text message. If they’re using an unlisted landline, they should know that entering 142 before dialling makes your number visible just for that call.

Call centres, on the other hand, navigate by the pure hard stars of bits and bytes. Once your number’s on their list, once you’re scheduled, then no force on earth can prevent that hateful ring-ring from finding you. Their evil computer brains advance-call the next number even if no-one’s yet ready to talk to you. Not a microsecond of company time is wasted; immediately poor Jimmy Q Agent on node 212 finishes one call, he’s connected directly to you or me, wondering who the hell this is while he fumbles the intro of his why-you-need-underpants-insurance spiel.

Except he won’t be connected to me. I don’t care how often he calls, who he is, or what he wants. I’m not taking his call. Show your number, you dirty feckers, and maybe we can talk.

George Wells